During its 44 years under colonial rule, Morocco served as a petri dish for experiments in modernism by French architects and planners like Jean-François Zevaco and Michel Ecochard. Today, 38-year-old architect Mohamed Amine Siana attempts to reconcile traditional North African architecture with that movement’s imposition on the built environment, in both public and residential buildings. “I try to find a solution to the schizophrenia of our culture in Morocco,” he says. “We are forced to find a language to create a contextual modernism.”
Siana did not intend to become an architect, but his father strongly encouraged him to apply to the National School of Architecture in Rabat, from which he graduated in 2004. For him, the discipline came to represent an expression of culture, people, and sociological behavior. At school, he met classmates Saad El Kabbaj and Driss Kettani, and, over a period of eight years, they pooled resources to work together on the design of three OPEC-funded universities located in Morocco’s tertiary cities of Taroudant, Guelmim, and Laayoune. Each campus comprises a collection of low-rise cubic buildings arrayed around a central axis for the circulation of students and faculty. The schools also share a material palette—distinct rough-hewn ochre cement facades reference the rammed earth used in a medieval city wall at Taroudant, where the architects received their first joint commission.